The FBI informed U.S. congressional leaders on Friday that it was investigating whether new emails that recently emerged in its probe of Hillary Clinton’s private server contained any classified information.
In a letter addressed to members of Congress, FBI Director James Comey said the agency became aware of the existence of “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” through an unrelated case. The announcement less than two weeks before Election Day.
“I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation,” Comey wrote in the letter.
Though Comey did not state in his letter where the new emails came from or who sent or received them, several news outlets have reported that the emails were recently uncovered after electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, and her husband, Anthony Weiner, were seized by the FBI. The agency is conducting an investigation into illicit messages Weiner texted to a 15-year-old North Carolina girl.
Comey stressed that the agency could not yet assess “whether or not this material may be significant,” or how long it might take to run down the new investigative leads. The FBI couldn’t guarantee its investigation would be finished before Election Day.
The news comes as WikiLeaks continues to publish tens of thousands of confidential emails from Clinton campaign insiders that U.S. intelligence officials have said were hacked in a series of cyberattacks they have blamed on the Russian government. The FBI, which did not respond to questions about Comey’s letter, is also investigating the recent hacks.
The disclosure raises the possibility of the FBI reopening the criminal investigation involving the Democratic presidential nominee just days before the election, although it is not clear if that will happen.
Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment when reached by the Associated Press, and the White House, through a spokesman, declined to immediately comment.
A State Department spokesman said they learned about the letter through media reports, adding the department pledged it would “co-operate to the full extent that we can.”
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In a statement, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that Clinton had “nobody but herself to blame.”
“She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information,” said Ryan. “This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”
Within minutes of the news, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used Comey’s new letter to attack Clinton on the campaign trail.
At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump praised the FBI, saying “I think they are going to right the ship, folks.”
“This was a grave miscarriage of justice, that the American people fully understood, and it is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected,” Trump said.
With files from the Associated Press